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The last two weeks of sesame have focused on the savory side of the seed. But I promised it was a versatile ingredient, and I aim to deliver this week with a simple, do-it-yourself version of sweet sesame brittle.
Growing up, we always had sweet sesame around the house. My mother is an addict. She always has a bag of what is labeled "sesame crunch," sesame seeds solidified with almonds in hard honey caramel, frozen as if in amber. The candy is hard, and one bite sends splintered seeds and burnt sugar all over you; it sticks to your teeth, and it is exotic and satisfying and feels somehow healthier than, say, a Jolly Rancher.
When she is feeling particularly decadent, she indulges in a bar of halvah, a candy made from sesame paste, than crumbles and turns to a paste in your mouth with the satisfying effect of pulling peanut butter off a spoon. Sesame candy is, to us, exotic, and, most winningly, never too sweet. Plus, there is the added benefit of making candy at home with just almonds, sesame seeds, sugar, honey, and water. How could you feel bad about that?
I find candy-making intimidating. Even after I bought my candy thermometer. This recipe requires next to no precision, and hence, no apprehension. Boil all the ingredients together in a nonstick pan, smooth it onto a Silpat, wait for it to cool, and chop into little sticks. In my family, of course, we just divvy it up amongst us and keep it in jars to pick on while watching TV or to smuggle into the movies. But if it is less familiar to you, I recommend making it as the simple, very much appreciated homemade end to a North African or Middle Eastern dinner.
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 cup raw sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup almonds
- pinch of salt
Place all the ingredients in a non-stick sauté pan, and heat over medium heat. The mixture will begin to bubble, and darken. Stir nearly continuously.
When the sesame seeds are deeply toasted and the water-sugar mixture is a deep caramel color, pour the hot sesame crunch mixture on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a Silpat. Use a silicone spatula to smooth the mixture into a rectangle about 1/2-inch thick. Allow to cool completely.
Turn the block onto a cutting board, and cut into strips, and then again into little rectangles, or whatever shape you like. Store in an airtight container.